Good morning from Managua, Nicaragua!
Last week I wrote about the importance of being the person God created you to be instead of trying to be someone you are not. In writing about this and discussing it with the young people in El Canyon, I realized that authenticity to easily be twisted into an excuse for something very different, complacency.
While it is very true that God made us the way we are for a purpose, it is equally true that we are made for growth and change. That is not to say that we are supposed to become someone we are not, rather that we are to transform into the best versions of ourselves. This is very different than changing into someone you were never meant to be. It is also very different from deciding that there is no room for growth in your life. The reality is these two concepts go hand-in-hand. Yes, we are to be authentic and, yes, we are to grow and change. So, how do we do that at the same time?
Over the course of the past fourteen years or so, I have had the opportunity to run a couple of marathons as well as a few half-marathons. I have also become very serious about exercising and staying in shape. When you run a marathon, you learn a very important principle – you cannot run twenty-six miles without committing a lot of time to training. In fact, most marathon training schedules are eighteen weeks long and expect you to be in relatively good running shape coming into the training. Over the course of the eighteen weeks, you commit hours of your life to running in hopes of gaining the ability to complete the marathon. By the end of the eighteen weeks, you have transformed into a more capable runner, but you have not become a different person. By diligently training, you have grown into the best version of yourself, at least in terms of running. This is true for any form of working out. When you commit to exercising your body for long periods of time over a long period of time, you become a better version of yourself from a physical fitness standpoint.
This principal holds true in other areas of our lives as well, and is the answer to the question above. Shortly before Jesus died on the cross, he left his followers with the following words- “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:5-8, NIV 1984) In some of his last words to his followers, Jesus tells them the way to grow and have an impact is by abiding, or remaining, in Him. In other words, spending time with Jesus is a key component to growth and becoming the best version of you. Just like running and exercising, it requires a commitment of time and energy over a long period of time. Also like running and exercising, it molds you into a better, more effective version of yourself, as opposed to someone entirely different. This makes a lot of sense as the thing, in this case a person, who is changing you is the person who made you in the first place. By spending time with God, we allow Him to mold us into the person he created us to be and, therefore, we are better equipped to serve the purpose for which we were made. In many ways, it is more transforming into our true selves than becoming someone different.
Practically, there are many ways to “remain in Christ”. Whether it is reading the Bible, praying, serving, going to church, spending time with other Followers of Christ, or one of the many other ways to spend time with God, they all help us to grow into a better version of ourselves. The key is that we practice these things regularly. Just like exercising, doing it once, or even every once in a while, isn’t going to get us there. God promises us growth if we are willing to continually put ourselves in a position to be transformed.
My desire is to commit to this with the same level of passion, if not greater, as I have with exercising. I believe this can make an incredible difference in my life because I have already seen evidence that it is true, both in exercising and the life I believe God has called me to. I hope today you will consider doing the same.
– James Belt